Plane mechanical keyboard

- France Telecom

A plane, mechanical keyboard comprises several main keys, each of which is surrounded by one or more secondary keys and is mechanically connected to at least one of these secondary keys to define a striking zone. Mechanisms interconnect the main keys and the secondary keys so that each main key, under the effect of a pressure, drives the neighboring secondary keys mechanically connected to this main key downwards and so that a pull-back force exerted on each secondary key exerts a corresponding pull-back force capable of drawing the neighboring main key back upwards when there is no pressure exerted on this neighboring key. This keyboard is designed, inter alia, to be integrated into pocket computer devices or pocket electronic devices or again into portable telephones.

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Claims

1. A plane mechanical keyboard designed to be integrated into an electronic pocket device comprising:

several main keys, each of which is located adjacent to at least one neighboring secondary key,
means for mechanically interconnecting each of the main keys with the associated neighboring secondary key to form a striking zone, the means for interconnecting coupling the main keys to the associated neighboring secondary keys such that an application of a pressure to one of the main keys drives the associated neighboring secondary key downwards and so that application of a pull-back force on one of the secondary keys exerts a corresponding pull-back force on the associated neighboring main key.

2. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 1, further comprising means for locking the main keys from excessive upward movement.

3. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 1, wherein the means for interconnecting includes:

guidance means for vertically guiding at least one of the main keys and the secondary keys,
elastic means, placed beneath the secondary keys, for exerting the pull-back force on the secondary keys.

4. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 1, wherein the means for interconnecting comprises tongues on the secondary keys that support the neighboring main keys.

5. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 1, further comprising a plurality of tertiary keys, each of which is surrounded by four secondary keys and four main keys and each of which is connected mechanically to at least one secondary key, and wherein the means for interconnecting interconnects the main keys, the secondary keys, and the tertiary keys in such a way that 1) downward movement of one of the main keys drives the neighboring secondary key downward and such that downward movement of one of the secondary keys drives the neighboring tertiary key downward, and 2) application of a pull-back force on one of the tertiary key exerts a corresponding pull-back force on the neighboring secondary and main keys associated therewith.

6. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 5, further comprising means for locking the main keys from excessive upward movement.

7. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 5, wherein the driving mechanisms comprise:

guidance means for vertically guiding at least one of the main keys and the secondary keys,
elastic means, placed beneath the tertiary keys, for exerting the pull-back force on the tertiary keys.

8. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 5, wherein the secondary keys include support tongues that support the neighboring main keys and that form a first portion of the means for interconnecting, and wherein the tertiary keys include support tongues that support the neighboring secondary keys and that form a second portion of said means for interconnecting.

9. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 5, wherein contact zones are formed between the main keys and the secondary keys and between the secondary keys and the tertiary keys and are slightly tilted so that, when a main key is struck, the contact zones simulate an elastic deformation of the neighboring keys of the corresponding striking zone.

10. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 1, further comprising fixed electrical contacts positioned beneath the main keys in a spaced-apart relationship with respect to the main keys.

11. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 1, wherein the dimensions of the secondary keys are small enough for none of them to be capable of being driven downwards by a user's finger without one of the neighboring main keys also driven downwards.

12. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 1, wherein an upper surface of each of the main keys is slightly concave and an upper surface of each of the secondary keys is slightly convex.

13. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 1, wherein the guide means guide the main keys only.

14. A plane mechanical keyboard designed to be integrated into an electronic pocket device, said mechanical keyboard comprising:

(A) a base;
(B) a plurality of main keys which are supported on said base so as to be movable vertically with respect to said base;
(C) a plurality of secondary keys, each of which 1) is supported on said base so as to be movable vertically with respect to said base and 2) is located adjacent at least one main key so as form a neighboring secondary key; and
(D) at least one return element; wherein
each of said main keys is operatively connected to at least one neighboring secondary key associated therewith such that, with respect to each said main key,
1) downward movement of said main key with respect to said base effects downward movement of said neighboring secondary key with respect to said base, and
2) a return force, imposed on said neighboring secondary key by said return elements is transmitted through said neighboring secondary key to said main key, thereby biasing said main key upwardly with respect to said base.

15. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 14, further comprising a stop which prevents excessive upward movement of at least one of said main keys relative to said base.

16. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 14, further comprising a plurality of guides each of which guides at least one of said main keys for vertical movement with respect to said base.

17. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 16, wherein said guides guide said main keys only.

18. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 14, wherein each of said secondary keys includes at least one tongue which supports a neighboring main key.

19. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 14, wherein the return element comprises a spring extending from said base to said neighboring secondary key.

20. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 14, wherein each said main key and the neighboring secondary key associated therewith have complementarily sloped adjacent surfaces.

21. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 14, wherein an upper surface of each of said main keys is concave and an upper surface of each of said secondary keys is convex.

22. A plane mechanical keyboard designed to be integrated into an electronic pocket device, said mechanical keyboard comprising:

(A) a base;
(B) a plurality of main keys which are supported on said base so as to be movable vertically with respect to said base;
(C) a plurality of secondary keys, each of which 1) is supported on said base so as to be movable vertically with respect to said base and 2) is located adjacent at least one main key so as form a neighboring secondary key;
(D) a plurality of tertiary keys, each of which is 1) is supported on said base so as to be movable vertically with respect to said base and 2) is located adjacent at least one neighboring secondary key so as form a neighboring tertiary key; and
(E) at least one return element, wherein
said main keys, secondary keys, and return keys are interconnected such that, with respect to each said main key,
1) downward movement of said main key with respect to said base effects downward movement of said neighboring secondary key and said neighboring tertiary key with respect to said base, and
2) a return force, imposed on said neighboring tertiary key by said return element, is transmitted through said neighboring tertiary key, through said neighboring secondary key, and to said main key, thereby biasing said main key upwardly with respect to said base.

23. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 22, further comprising a stop which prevents excessive upward movement of at least one of said main keys relative to said base.

24. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 22, further comprising a plurality of guides each of which guides at least one of said main keys for vertical movement with respect to said base.

25. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 24, wherein said guides guide said main keys only.

26. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 22, wherein each of said secondary keys includes at least one tongue which supports a neighboring main key, and wherein each of said tertiary keys includes at least one tongue which supports a neighboring secondary key.

27. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 22, wherein the return element comprises a spring extending from said base to said neighboring tertiary key.

28. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 22, wherein at least one of said main keys and the associated neighboring secondary key have complementarily sloped adjacent surfaces, and wherein at least one of said secondary keys and the associated neighboring tertiary key have complementarily sloped adjacent surfaces.

29. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 22, wherein an upper surface of each of said main keys is concave, an upper surface of each of said secondary keys is convex, and an upper surface of each of said tertiary keys is convex.

30. A mechanical keyboard according to claim 22, wherein each of said tertiary keys is surrounded by four secondary keys and four main keys.

Referenced Cited

U.S. Patent Documents

4400593 August 23, 1983 Kunz
4566078 January 21, 1986 Crabtree
4649246 March 10, 1987 Schmid et al.
5124702 June 23, 1992 Van Ardenne
5528235 June 18, 1996 Lin et al.
5612690 March 18, 1997 Levy

Foreign Patent Documents

A-2729157 January 1979 DEX

Patent History

Patent number: 5861588
Type: Grant
Filed: Apr 30, 1997
Date of Patent: Jan 19, 1999
Assignee: France Telecom (Paris)
Inventor: Jean-Loup Gillot (Paris)
Primary Examiner: J. R. Scott
Law Firm: Nilles & Nilles SC
Application Number: 8/846,619

Classifications

Current U.S. Class: With Independent Operators (200/5A); Keyboards (235/145R)
International Classification: H01H 1370; B41J 500; G06C 702;